James Turrell in Vegas at Whitewallmag.com

maxwell williams
Jun 25, 2013 8:46PM

Last weekend, a few art journalists, myself included, were summoned to take in a new James Turrell installation in Las Vegas. It was an addition to the collection on MGM Resorts’ CityCenter properties, a $9.2 billion mega-resort opened in 2009 on the Las Vegas Strip. CityCenter (credited with being a rescuing job-creator for Nevadans during the recession) includes several hotel-casinos and the Shops at Crystals, a luxury shopping mall with an impressive cluster of Fendi, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, and other high-end boutiques.

The purpose of our trip was to see the newest addition to the collection, James Turrell’s design of a monorail station connecting the Shops at Crystals with the Aria Hotel and Casino with a cutout in walls so that the light is viewable from the Shops below.

Worry bubbles pop in my mind—am I becoming numb to Turrell’s magic? Does his commodification of light work in a place where luxury is commoditized? Are Turrell’s muted perceptual gestures too soft for Vegas’ harsh neon overload? Or will they blend in entirely to a city so rampant with color, undetectable to the untrained eye? Does any art (not just Turrell’s) register in Las Vegas, where people bustle across ten-lane streets to water shows and lion tricks and trapeze artists and Michael Jackson tributes (not to mention the requisite gambling and drinking), at all?

It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but Turrell’s work simply plays better the more private his work is, and nowhere is more proof than in Las Vegas. The sins contained in the Crystals cutout are manifold—the welcome sign to the shopping mall meshes with it, roping the Turrell piece into it; a Starbucks logo is visible both looking down from the piece and looking up at it; the mundane escalators that you can’t ignore. The Louis Vuitton piece is more powerful, and, of course, having your own Turrell at your home is the winner-winner-chicken-dinner.

[Read the whole article at Whitewallmag.com

maxwell williams